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Family
Marriage: Children:
  1. Robert Walpole: Birth: Bef 1706.

  2. Edward Walpole: Birth: 1706. Death: 12 Jan 1784

  3. Horace Walpole: Birth: 1717.


Notes
a. Note:   NI3217
Note:   Walpole was twice married. His first wife was a merchant's daughter from Kent, who bore him five children. She enjoyed extravagance, frequently attending the opera and buying expensive clothes and jewellery. During his time as prime minister Walpole grew estranged from his Wife and took a succession of lovers. Within a year of Lady Walpole dying in 1737, Walpole married one of them.
Here Lady Walpole pretends to gather flowers in her garden, just as the Duchess of Queensberry, in a contemporary portrait by Jervas (London, National Portrait Gallery), pretends to be a milkmaid. The garden through which she wanders is loosely suggested, and the mood evoked is that of an Italian villa, as in the distance a raised tazza spills water amid a grove of young trees. The flowers that Lady Walpole carries in her hand and in her basket are magnificently painted and repay close examination. Whether they are the work of Jervas or of a studio specialist is not known, but the burst of colour they provide in the lower right of the canvas is a splendid counterpoint to the restrained blue and red of her costume, and the muted tone of the sky and enclosing trees. Stylistically it must date from the early 1720's, which would be compatible with the sitter�s apparent age, allowing for conventional flattery, whilst the architectural background would seem to allude to Houghton Hall, without depicting it with any accuracy. Jervas is usually more precise in such settings, and the loose suggestion of the Palladian fa�ade dates the painting to the period before the final form of the house had been realised. The original Campbell design for the house saw a square plan with Palladian pedimented towers at the four corners of the building, but these were never executed. In 1725 this lack was resolved by the Baroque cupolas currently visible, which were erected to the design of Gibbs. It seems likely, therefore, that the portrait of Lady Walpole was painted c. 1722 � 1725, and the unusual ziggurats in the background reflect an uncertainty as to the intended effect. Whether Catherine Shorter deserved this elegant treatment is less certain. She and her husband married in 1700, but soon began to seek diversion elsewhere. The birth of Horace Walpole in 1717 was a surprise to many, given the couple�s known feelings for each other, and gossip was swift to name others as the father. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu suggests that the true father was Carr Hervey, elder brother of Lord Hervey1, and it is true that Walpole seems more to resemble the Herveys than his named father. Lady Mary further speaks of Lady Walpole as �an empty, coquettish, affected woman, anything rather than correct in her own conduct or spotless in her fame.� When she died of dropsy in 1736 it is recorded: �Sir Robert it is likely is not very sorry: she was as gallant if report be true with the men as he with the women, nevertheless, they continued to live together, and take their pleasures their own way without giving offence.� (Egmont Diary vol.ii p 431) The Walpoles of Houghton and their allies and relatives the Townshends of Raynham Hall formed the most distinguished part of Jervas�s patronage after the Royal family, and the association was certainly the most lucrative for him. Vertue records these trends of patronage as late as 1737, though Walpole had favoured Jervas for almost three decades: other Noblemen do patronize painters also as Ld. Pembroke now Mr Ellis. Sr. Robt. Walpole Mr. Jervis�� Jervas had painted Walpole c.1708 when he was Secretary for War to Queen Anne, and it was at the urging of Walpole, Charles Townshend and the Duke of Newcastle �all sitters to Jervas- that King George I was persuaded to appoint Jervas to be his Principal Painter. The opportunity the painter was able to exploit later via the chain of Walpole�s influence was considerable, enjoying the favour of the Prime Minister, and through his influence that of Queen Caroline, and by her efforts, that of King George II. A patrons display of taste, is largely inseparable from personal aggrandisement, and Jervas was engaged from around 1722 onwards in the production of a series of family and royal portraits and other paintings for the decoration of Walpole�s great house at Houghton. This building by Colen Campbell and James Gibbs, with suites of furniture by William Kent is one of the greatest architectural monuments of its age, and it was fittingly hung with portraits of the family of the man that had made it possible. In the Rustic were hung portraits of Walpole himself, his uncle and brother, Dorothy Lady Townshend his sister and Catherine Shorter his first wife. It is unlikely that the portrait of Lady Walpole referred to by their son Horace in his Aedes Walpolianae is the present example. Since it was paired with Jervas�s early portrait of Walpole as Secretary for War it is quite probably the Jervas copy of a portrait by Kneller that was included in Horace Walpole�s Strawberry Hill sale in the following century. It more probable that this example is the portrait of Catherine Shorter that was paired with a portrait of Sir Robert with the ribbon of the Bath, mentioned by Kerslake2 in the collection of H. Birkbeck in 1961.
1. Contra Sedgwick (Lord Hervey�s Memoirs ed. Romney Sedgwick Penguin 1963 p.195 n.1) Lord Hervey is silent on this point, and here in his diaries alludes to a comparable matter: that Sir Robert�s grandson was not fathered by his son Lord Walpole, but by Sir George Oxenden.
2. (Kerslake Early Georgian Portraits HMSO 1977 vol.1 p.201) It is unclear why Kerslake considers this pair to be �too late to the pair mentioned [at Houghton] in 1736.� This cataloguer agrees that it is unlikely to be that pair, which must be the Jervas of Sir Robert of 1708-1710 and the companion of Catherine Shorter that was at Strawberry Hill. But as Sir Robert is shown wearing the ribbon of the Order of the Bath, the Birkbeck portrait should date itself quite exactly to 1725, when Walpole was appointed to the Order. In the following year he resigned the Bath in order to accept the Garter, the two being incompatible dignities in a subject.


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